Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Specialization Guide - 2022

Last Reviewed: September 30th, 2022

Nurse practitioners have six different foci to choose from during their studies as they plan their future careers. One of these career paths is the Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner, or WHNP. In this article, we will take a look at the training requirements and the career path of a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner.

What does a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner do?

A Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner works with women of all ages and provides a broad variety of services. They provide services such as gynecological services, pre- and postnatal care for mothers, menopausal care, and much more. Additionally, WHNPs offer preventative care for female patients. They also assist with family planning and help patients make the right decisions for their long-term well-being.

As nurse practitioners, WHNPs are required to have both a Registered Nurse certification and an Advance Practice Nursing certification. These certifications enable nurse practitioners to work in a wide variety of settings, ranging from public healthcare systems to private practice to community clinics and more. WHNPs will often work in clinics that specifically focus on women’s healthcare services.

WHNP Roles & Responsibilities

The job of a WHNP is often split between providing preventative healthcare screenings and treatment for active medical conditions. A WHNP’s daily responsibilities are typically very patient-focused, although there is also some paperwork and interaction with other medical professionals.

Major responsibilities for a WHNP include:

  • Conducting physical and well-woman exams. WHNPs will screen for potential health risks and offer preventative health guidance.
  • Conducting pap smears, breast exams, and other screenings specific to women’s health.
  • Providing contraceptive care and other family planning services to women who need them. They may also assist with fertility treatments for women who are struggling to get pregnant.
  • Providing both pre- and post-natal care to women who have babies. This may also include referrals to specialists for further care.
  • Testing for and treating STIs. WHNPs also provide education and preventative care relating to sexual wellness.
  • Ordering diagnostic tests and interpreting the results. Nurse practitioners have the credentials to make official diagnoses and provide care as a result.
  • Prescribing medications and other treatments related to women’s health.
  • Communicating effectively with patients. WHNPs will help patients better understand their diagnoses and provide guidance about how to care for their health moving forward.
  • Working with other medical staff to provide the best possible care for their patients. This may include managing lower-level nurses as well as working to assist doctors. They will also need to communicate with their team’s administrative staff to handle scheduling, insurance requirements, and other logistical details.

WHNPs help their patients through many important moments in their lives, such as starting puberty or having a baby. They also provide a large amount of preventive and educational care. This means that WHNPs must be very caring and empathetic, and they must have excellent communication skills.

There is also a very broad range of tasks that WHNPs need to handle on a regular basis. This means that they must be able to pick up new tasks quickly and shift gears effectively throughout the day. WHNPs will also need to be able to stay very organized as they juggle multiple patients throughout the day.

Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner vs. Women’s Health Registered Nurse

There are several major differences between a WHNP and a registered nurse in the women’s health field. A WHNP goes through more extensive training than a women’s health RN and therefore has more responsibility. Many RNs will work directly under a WHNP. WHNPs have the ability to order tests, make official diagnoses, and prescribe medication, while RNs cannot. Some states allow nurse practitioners to work independently without the supervision of a physician.

Day In The Life of A Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner

A typical day in the life of a WHNP is going to vary depending on where they practice. For example, someone working at a large hospital is going to have a much different day than someone who works at a small women’s health clinic. The length of shifts can vary as well. While many WHNPs work a traditional 9-to-5 schedule, some work shorter clinical shifts with a much more variable schedule. Alternatively, those who work in large hospital settings might work three longer shifts over the course of a week.

Here is a sample day in the life of a WHNP.

  • Arrive at work and prepare for appointments. This typically means preparing the examination room, reviewing charts, and checking in with administrative staff to get ready for the day.
  • See a mix of patients for several hours, usually in 15 to 30 minute blocks. This could include wellness exams as well as treatment for problems relating to women’s health.

    If necessary, order diagnostic tests and prescription medication for patients.

    In between appointments, update charts and make notes as needed.
  • Take a short lunch break in the middle of the day. Many WHNPs use this time to answer emails and catch up on paperwork if they are running behind.
  • Continue to see patients at the same cadence for the rest of the shift.
  • Follow up with any outstanding lab tests and finish up charts before heading home for the day. This may also include checking in with supervisors and other staff members about patient care and what needs to be done.

A day as a WHNP is filled with variety and can be very fast-paced. Most appointments are scheduled in advance, and many nurse practitioners see the same patients for years. However, many practices leave a few slots open each day for new patients and urgent appointments. While each day can come with new challenges, many WHNPs enjoy this aspect of the job and find that it keeps them stimulated and engaged.

Career Stability & Projections for WHNPs

Pursuing any career in the nursing field is likely to come with stability and growth in the years to come. When compared to other fields, nursing is poised for a huge amount of job growth in the years to come. Out of all the positions in the nursing field, nurse practitioners have the most potential for future growth.

The U.S. job market as a whole is projected to grow by 7.7 percent while nurse practitioners are projected to grow 28.2% from 2018 to 2028. The projection for registered nurse positions is only 9.9. This means that nurse practitioner positions of any kind are likely to be in very high demand throughout the next decade.

Demand for women’s healthcare is steady and consistent throughout the United States. WHNPs are very valuable because they can provide many of the same services that doctors do, such as making formal diagnoses and writing prescriptions. There are also WHNP positions available in many different settings, ranging from small clinics to large university healthcare systems. This means that WHNPs have plenty of options when it comes to choosing a position. WHNPs are in particularly high demand in rural areas that don’t have many doctors, but there are also plenty of positions available in urban and suburban areas.

The median salary for WHNPs is currently $118,040 (Bureau of Labor Statistics - 2021) per year. The current median wage across all jobs in the United States is $41,950. As a WHNP, your exact salary will vary depending on a variety of factors.

Most WHNPs can find a job after completing their APN certification, regardless of whether they have previous experience in a lower-level position. However, WHNPs can increase their salary over time as they gain experience. WHNPs who have been working in the field for several years or even decades can make far more than the current median salary.

WHNPs can also make more money with advanced education. While nurse practitioners are not required to get additional certifications beyond their ANP degree, it does increase marketability and can help them command a higher salary. For example, nurse practitioners in the women’s health field may opt to get additional certifications related to gynecology and childbirth. On top of that, nurse practitioners can command an even higher salary with a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.

Salaries for WHNPs can vary depending on location. Salaries tend to be higher in large cities with a high cost of living. However, some rural healthcare systems and clinics will use higher salaries as a way to attract WHNPs to areas where they might not choose to move otherwise.

Career Satisfaction for WHNPs

Nurse practitioners in every foci tend to report high levels of job satisfaction, regardless of the type and location of their practice. In 2018, the National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health conducted a comprehensive study of WHNPs across the country. When asked to rate their overall job satisfaction on a scale from 1 to 5, 74 percent of respondents chose a 4 or a 5.

There are many factors that contribute to these high job satisfaction ratings for WHNPs. Many nurse practitioners find this job very intellectually stimulating, as each day presents unique new challenges. It can also be very rewarding to help patients and watch their health improve over time. While there are some stressful moments working as a WHNP, the pace is generally slower than working in a primary care hospital or working as a midwife.

Additionally, WHNPs connect and support women throughout various stages of their lives, which can be very stimulating from a social perspective. Many women see the same nurse practitioners throughout their adulthood. This makes it a great job for those who value relationship building and derive a sense of purpose from helping others. WHNPs often help women as they grow their families and experience major life milestones.

WHNPs also work closely with doctors, other nurses, and administrative staff to provide excellent care. They are typically very respected at work and have the opportunity to build strong relationships with their coworkers. When compared with RNs, WHNPs have more autonomy and independence at work as well.

Many WHNPs also enjoy the stability that their careers provide. Since nurse practitioners are in high demand, it is relatively easy for them to find a position. They also have plenty of options when it comes to the location and type of environment they would like to work in. Average salaries for WHNPs are also relatively high, which allows them to live stable and comfortable lives.

Most Common Complaints From WHNPs

Although WHNPs report very high job satisfaction, there are still some negative aspects of working in this position. Here are some of the most common career complaints that WHNPs have.

Extensive Education Requirements

One of the biggest complaints that many WHNPs have about this career path is the education requirements. WHNPs go through years of education in order to get certified. This can be very expensive and result in hefty student loan debt. To cover these education costs, many nursing students work while they are studying. Working while also studying for your ANP degree can be very stressful, which is a downside for many nursing students.

Variable Schedule

While some WHNPs have a 9-5 schedule, many others work much more inconsistent shifts. WHNPs that work in hospital systems could have shifts as long as 12 hours, although this is rare in this nursing foci. Some nurse practitioners find it frustrating to plan around a schedule like this that is constantly changing.

Workplace Stress

While working as a WHNP can be very rewarding, it can also be stressful at times. This job can require nurse practitioners to juggle several tasks at once and occasionally work very long hours. Treating patients who are struggling with serious illnesses can also be emotionally stressful and overwhelming at times.

Limited Scope

WHNPs work entirely with women and focus on a specific subset of health conditions that women struggle with. While many providers prefer having this designated focus, some nurse practitioners find that their training isn’t quite as marketable as a family nursing program, which provides more training for primary care.

Requirements To Become A WHNP

To become a WHNP, the first step is to get your bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) degree. This degree is offered at many universities and colleges around the country. After completing your BSN, the next step is to get your Registered Nurse certification. This process typically takes three to four years.

After completing your BSN, the next step is to complete a master’s program for nurse practitioners. This is when students select their women’s health foci. This program typically takes two to three years to complete, and contains a mix of lecture classes and clinical study. Some nurse practitioners opt to pursue a doctorate degree instead, which adds several years of study but makes WHNPs more marketable to employers.

After completing graduate education, you will need to take a very comprehensive exam to get their certification. This exam varies by state, but there is typically a limit on how many times you can take it within a certain period of time. After you pass the exam, you will need to apply for your state license. State licenses typically need to be renewed every five years.

Once you have this license, you can start applying for jobs working as a WHNP. There are many different clinical settings that hire WHNPs. These include community clinics, private women’s health clinics, public hospitals, university healthcare systems, and other forms of public and private practice.

Citations:

“Occupational Projections and Worker Characteristics.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 8 Sept. 2021, https://www.bls.gov/emp/tables/occupational-projections-and-characteristics.htm.

“College of Nursing.” Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner | College of Nursing | University of Illinois Chicago, https://nursing.uic.edu/programs/doctor-nursing-practice/dnp-focus-areas/womens-health-np/.

“Are You Considering a Career as a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner?” American Association of Nurse Practitioners, https://www.aanp.org/news-feed/are-you-considering-a-career-as-a-womens-health-nurse-practitioner.

Khubchandani, Jagdish. “2018 NPWH Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Workforce Demographics & Compensation Survey.” National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health.